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Report: At least seven teams circling, waiting to see if Celtics decide to trade Terry Rozier

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Last season in the playoffs, Terry Rozier looked like a quality starting point guard — 16.5 points and 5.7 assists per game, playing more than 36 minutes a night with a PER of 17.3, and he led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This season, he’s returned to his backup role behind a now-healthy Kyrie Irving, playing 22 minutes a night, getting fewer shots than he did last season, scoring 7.5 a night with less efficiency (a PER of 10.2). It’s not how Rozier wants to look going into a contract year. There are still plenty of teams that will throw big money at Rozier next July (north of $15 million a season), meaning Boston has to consider trading him. At least those are the rumors flying around the league.

There are at least seven teams interested in Terry right now, waiting for Boston to start seriously listening to offers, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Quietly, at least seven teams have been monitoring Rozier’s status this season, league sources told The Athletic, waiting to see if the Celtics could begin to field trade calls. The Phoenix Suns have aggressively pursued Rozier, even before firing Ryan McDonough as general manager, league sources said.

Nevertheless, Boston appears content with its roster, and who could blame them? Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and his front office staff have built arguably the deepest roster in the Eastern Conference and anywhere in the league outside of the Bay.

Boston is going to be hesitant to trade Rozier for two reasons. At the top of the list: Irving insurance. Irving has a long injury history (one reason some front offices are still not entirely convinced Boston will give Irving a full five-year max extension this summer) and if he goes down before or during the playoffs Boston will need Rozier. This is a team poised to come out of the East, but they need a quality point guard to do it.

The other reason: Boston sees itself as a contender this season and wants the point guard depth Rozier provides for playoff matchups and depth. The Celtics think they can win this year, and Rozier is part of that.

Keep Rozier, then pay Irving next summer as expected, and the Celtics will lose Rozier for nothing. That’s not a very Danny Ainge thing to do. Right now he’s keeping his powder dry, but that may change. If and when he does, there are plenty of teams ready to pounce.

Knicks say they scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo in Greece

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s agent, Giorgos Panou, said the Knicks were the only team not to scout Antetokounmpo in Greece before the 2013 NBA draft.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

If the Knicks indeed scouted Antetokounmpo that thoroughly, it’s a shame they were smeared for not doing so.

Milwaukee took Antetokounmpo No. 13. New York had the No. 24 pick and kept it to draft Tim Hardaway Jr.

Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma scores 35, wins MVP, leads USA to victory in Rising Stars dunkfest

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CHARLOTTE — Nobody comes to the Friday night Rising Stars Challenge — the All-Star weekend showcase of first- and second-year stars — for the defense. Which is good, because there isn’t any. Zero. Nada. Your Saturday blacktop pickup game at the local park has guys that care more about defense than you see in this game.

What the Rising Stars has are dunks. A lot of big dunks. And some threes. Then more dunks.

For example, the Hawks’ John Collins was showing off why he was in the dunk contest, complete with a pass off the backboard to himself.

As for the game itself, the USA won 161-144 over the World.

The Lakers Kyle Kuzma raced out to 23 first-half points and finished with 35 to earn MVP honors.

“Last year I didn’t really play that hard,” Kuzma said of his first time in this game. “This year I just came out, one, I wanted to get some conditioning, and, two, why not MVP? You’re in the game. So might as well just try.”

Kuzma also broke out the windmill.

D’Aaron Fox said before the game he wanted to break the assist record for the Rising Stars, and while he fell short of that number he had 16 for the USA. Boston’s Jayson Tatum had 30 and Donovan Mitchell had 20 for the USA. Ben Simmons led the Word team of 28 points.

As for highlights, there were plenty.

Atlanta’s Trae Young hit six threes and had this dime.

He also had the play of the night, nutmegging Deandre Ayton.

Philly’s Ben Simmons had a couple of throwdowns.

The Timberwolves Josh Okogie had the putback of the night (teammate and All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns sat courtside wearing an Okogie jersey).

Hawks’ John Collins passes to self off backboard for dunk in Rising Stars

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CHARLOTTE — The NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge — the Friday night showcase of first- and second-year players during All-Star Weekend — has less defense than your lunch run pickup game at the Y. Even less than the All-Star Game itself.

Which leads to some monster dunks.

Enter Atlanta’s second-year big man John Collins, playing for the USA (vs. The World), who went off the backboard to himself for the best throwdown of the game.

That wasn’t Collins’ only quality dunk in this game.

He looks ready for Saturday’s Dunk Contest.

Report: Nuggets extend president Tim Connelly’s contract

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On the same day the Pelicans fired general manager Dell Demps, the Nuggets extended the contract of president Tim Connelly, who went to Denver from New Orleans.

Nuggets release:

Nuggets President and Governor Josh Kroenke announced today that the Nuggets have extended the contracts of President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and General Manager Arturas Karnisovas as well and also provided multi-year extensions for the entire basketball operations staff.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I don’t know whether Connelly used the threat of the Pelicans job as leverage. But he deserved this extension, anyway.

The Nuggets have only continued to rise since his previous extension three years ago.

Denver has yet to make the playoffs under Connelly, and he declared this season postseason or bust. Denver (39-18) is second in the Western Conference.

Connelly made a second-round pick so good in Nikola Jokic, it altered the course of the franchise. Connelly has done well to lock Jokic onto a five-year extension, surround him with young talent like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez and get them a good coach in Michael Malone.

If Denver weren’t stuck barely missing the playoffs in the loaded West the last couple years, we might have been singing Connelly’s praises sooner. But his success is undeniable. The Nuggets are in great shape now and in the future, and Connelly should see that through.